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Photo: Ata Awisat
Elazar Stern
Photo: Ata Awisat
Silence of the rabbis
Rabbis must clearly condemn recent cases of religious insubordination

The childish and flawed insubordination displays by Kfir Brigade troops taint the image of an entire community that is highly devoted to Israel. There are many religious soldiers in the army, and the vast majority of them view the abovementioned acts as a radical phenomenon that threatens them too.

 

After all, they are the ones who pay the price of it, because they are now being viewed as potential refuseniks, even though they have already shown, in the face of difficult tests, that this is not the case.

  

The vast majority of religious troops have shown a mature and deep comprehension of the army’s duties in a democratic state. Just like they did not refuse orders during the Gaza disengagement, I am convinced that they will not be refusing orders in the future.

 

This community will not be lending its hand to turning the IDF into an army of militias where each soldier only adheres to his sectarian leader. These soldiers will not allow an overly zealous minority to drag them and us into this abyss.

 

The most important reason that requires a response to the latest provocation is the fact that, regrettably, it enjoys some support. Regrettably, some people view such acts as commensurate with Zionism, Judaism, and the best way to defend the land’s integrity. They are so certain that their path is righteous that they are not embarrassed to grant financial rewards to future refuseniks.

 

Only an abhorrent educational and religious failure can prompt a man who carries the title of rabbi to tempt and reward his followers with money. I certainly hope that law enforcement authorities are examining whether those who pay soldiers who broke the law are themselves breaking the law.

 

Clear statement needed

Yet more than anything, I am bothered by the great silence of most religious leaders. Perhaps they are unaware of the severe implications of these precedents not only for democracy in this country, but first and foremost for their own followers.

 

The very fact that this phenomenon is the work of religious soldiers has prompted the army to close itself off to Judaism. This phenomenon has prompted some commanders, and justifiably so, to cancel Shabbat dinners at the homes of religious families. These commanders are concerned that during these dinners, the soldiers will not only be imbued with Judaism but also with messages that encourage insubordination.

 

If indeed it turns out that the soldiers involved in the abovementioned acts are members of hesder yeshivas, and if these troops are backed by their rabbis, then the army must end its cooperation with these yeshivas. Yet if their rabbis do not endorse these acts, they must say so clearly and remove these people from their ranks on their own accord, even before the army does so. Should they fail to do it, this too would constitute a clear statement; A clear and dangerous one.

 

General (reserves) Stern served as the IDF’s manpower directorate chief, chief educational officer, and commander of the army’s officers’ school

 

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